At the Vital Signs segment of the bet.com Lifestyle page, there is a May 30 posting entitled, “Why Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Doesn’t Work.” The author suggests that abstinence-only programs are not beneficial to the African American community. I have printed the text of the article below, and my responses to the author’s statements are in the red paragraphs. The line of reasoning is similar to that of those who are for acceptance of homosexual lifestyles within the African American church, to which I have responded in the last chapter of Where Are All the Brothers? Abstinence will work for those with the power of Christ, for abstinence is really possessing our bodies in holiness and honor (I Thess. 4:4), having been cleansed by the power of Christ:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God, (I Cor. 6:9-11, ESV).
Here is the text and the response:
There’s a sex crisis in our community and the government doesn’t want us to talk about it.
Blaming the Government will not solve the problem. The Government is only responsible for 1) equal governing of all, 2) defense from enemies within and without, and 3) equal justice to all. Not one of these items has been breached by reminding us that sexual relationships are reserved for heterosexual, monogamous married couples.
Abstinence-only conversations have ruled sex ed classes at federally sponsored programs and health clinics for nearly a decade. But, Black teens ARE having sex and getting sick from it. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Infection recently reported that its first of its kind study of 14-to 19-year-olds found that Black teen girls had the highest overall prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Nearly half of the Black teen girls they surveyed had at least one STD, and they didn’t get them from being abstinent. What other proof do we need that abstinence-only programs don’t work?
The presence of STD among 14-19 year old girls does not necessarily mean that abstinence-only programs do not work. It could mean that no one takes them seriously, but if taken seriously by the user they would work. Or it could mean that teens are not gaining enough support from the social institutions outside of school and health clinics – the location of sex ed classes – to be faithful to abstinence—institutions like boys’ and girls’ clubs, or houses of worship. Or it could be an indicator of the effect of the breakdown of the family upon teen sexual patterns – that no one at home is giving attention to teen sexual habits. (As you say below, parents are the first line of defense. Is it right to assume parents are defending?) Or maybe there are sufficient flaws in the educational content of such programs that they are not truly abstinence-only programs, for some abstinence-only programs are showing success.
Let’s face it. Our girls are having sex and they don’t know how to protect themselves. Parents, you are the first line of defense. If you don’t know what to say to keep your daughter safe, talk to somebody, or have your daughter talk with someone who does – a doctor, health counselor or other adult your daughter trusts. We also need to stop being so righteous about sex. With all the mixed messages teens are getting from music, videos and their friends, we can’t afford to keep burying our heads in the sand. They’re not getting what they need to stay safe and it’s our fault.
Teaching abstinence is not the same as ignoring a threat. It is an alternative to giving away the responsible teaching on the proper place for a sexual relationship. It is an attempt by a minority segment of American society to counter the messages from the majority culture that come through music, videos, and ignorantly- or ill-informed and irresponsible peers. In fact, what is needed is a righteous approach to sexual relationships—one that puts the breaks on the sexual messages coming from the alternative outlets. If the music industry made a 180-degree turn to sing of abstinence and make videos of the same, what might the effect be? Of course I am being facetious, but you get the point: abstinence programs themselves cannot be faulted for the statistics on teen sex or teen STDs.
Get off your high horse. Get teens girls information, not just about sex, but about living with dignity. Check out actor Hill Harper’s latest book next week called “Letters To A Young Sister.” It stresses that one the most important sex talks you can have with a teen girl may be about respecting herself. It also tells teen girls to ”define your destiny,” shaping your future to whatever you want it to be. Talk with teen girls about her goals and dreams and about rising above her circumstances, and about delaying sex.
You are right: we need to teach our daughters about dignity! We need to teach them that it is indignant to give away their virginity and deepest emotional desires prior to marriage. We need to teach them that the way to gain respect is to hold young men at bay sexually so that they can stand out among their peers rather than be one of the girls known to be loose, free, easy, or available. Respect comes by uniqueness in high standards rather than by commonality in low standards. This is the part of one’s “destiny” that must be defined – that must be made into a conviction, not simple a goal. Might I suggest that Vicki Courtney has a book that every mother of a young daughter should read?
But also talk with her about how love doesn’t mean going to bed with someone she THINKS loves her just because he says so, or having sex just to keep a boy. And, most importantly, talk with her about using a condom every time she has sex. Let her know that if the young man she’s interested in doesn’t care enough about her to use a condom, kick him to the curb.
Is it necessary to have a “don’t, but if you do” conversation? If this is the alternative to abstinence, then how will you curb STDs based on your line of argumentation? You only have made a lesser form of abstinence: “Abstain from those who will not use condoms. Other guys are OK.” Does this prevent things transmitted through oral sex? Does this deal with the emotional desires and confusion brought on by having sex while young and unmarried? What will make this lesser-abstinence program more successful? Aren’t you being “righteous” about condom-use-only sex? Isn’t your head in the sand about young girls participating in sex without a condom? Is “don’t, but if you do” defining one’s destiny, or is it not saying, “do not strive for the highest goals?” Will this solution increase conversations about (responsible) sexual behavior or feelings of “love” toward young men? Once moms and dads OK condom use, why have any more talks with their girls? Isn’t the problem solved? Also, if we give the “don’t, but if you do” talk, will this be enough to say we have talked with our daughters? If so, then we will not need thereafter to talk with a doctor or a health care professional, for they should not be able to say any more than this, right? Or maybe, just maybe, a doctor or health care professional might go one step further and say, “young lady, the safest thing you can do to prevent contracting a Sexually Transmitted Disease is to refrain from participating in sexual acts until you have married someone who is committed to sexually enjoying you only, and then maintaining your mutual sexual fidelity.” I think this is better than saying abstinence, in either form, doesn’t work.